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House – Perils Of Paranoia

As the eighth - and by all reports the last - season of House creeps towards its midway point, it's a sad fact that even die-hard, long-time fans like me are beginning to feel as if the life-blood of originality that has kept us glued to the series for seven long years is quietly hemorrhaging from this show.

House’s rigid structure, often a subject of derision for its critics, isn’t broken or bent in any way for this episode. The POTW (patient-of-the-week) is the standard good-looking yuppie with an attractive (albeit mildly shrewish) wife, interrupted in the business of his every day life by a serious (but initially innocent-seeming) heart-attack. This normally wouldn’t interest House in the slightest of course, except that – quelle surprise – Foreman’s sneakily already ruled out all the boring stuff that might have caused the attack, impressing House so much with his deviousness we get the feeling he takes this one just as a favor to his star pupil.

As we move into the first act of this week’s episode, it quickly becomes obvious that there aren’t going to be any surprises in store for us in terms of character interaction, dialogue or delicious snark. House is apparently still amusing himself by pitting the insular, stubbornly brilliant Park (Charlyne Yi) against the gear-grindingly, dull Adams (Odette Yustman) in a kind of world-weary parody of the sparring matches we used to see between Amber and Thirteen back in the halcyon days of season four. Sadly, although equally as attractive to look at, Adams’ character has none of the humanity or depth of Thirteen and so persistently fails to be even remotely likeable, which when you consider that one of the sub-plots of this episode is Park’s struggle with the suspicion that she is not liked, is more than a little ironic.

Park and Taub

‘Paranoia’ is the theme of this week’s show, so – in true House tradition – we are treated to some entertaining examples of how paranoia shapes the decisions these characters make, who they are and how they choose to live their lives.

Our POTW is paranoid in the extreme: stockpiling guns, constructing secret panic rooms within his home, lying to his wife, and so his fear of what he sees as inevitable doom has caused him to neglect the simple vaccination that would have prevented his life-threatening illness.

Park’s paranoia that she isn’t respected by her peers (in particular Adams who seems determined to take fault with every idea she suggests during group differential diagnosis) is escalated when House calmly informs her that she is respected, ‘just not liked’. Her refusal to accept that this matters to her has underpinned her character up to this point, so it’s interesting to see this trait being explored a little more deeply in this episode. But whether she’s supposedly driven by her stubbornness, her need to test House’s theory, or a desire to one-up Adams, the decision to ask the pretty (but self-confessed) himbo Chase out for after work drinks doesn’t seem to ring true, leaving us wondering just where on earth the writers are planning on going with her.

As it happens though, Park’s wasn’t the only thread that concluded with a healthy helping of “huh?” this week. Apparently, Foreman needs a girlfriend (because that worked out so well for him the last time) and can’t seem to catch a break, despite being the sweetest boss PPTH has ever had, plus a super-hottie. So, putting aside the fact that he’s never showed anything but exemplary moral judgment in the past and that he’s just been given a major promotion that he’s been jonesing for for the last four years, he decides that an affair with a married woman is the way to help him unwind after a hard day at the office. Curious decision Foreman, especially considering where that all led for poor Taub last season.

Foreman making a bad decision

Which brings us finally - and thankfully more entertainingly - to our protagonist’s arc, and to something that is always guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips of any lifelong fan of the show: a House/Wilson face-off, or in the most basic of terms:

Wilson thinks House owns a gun.

House denies it.

Wilson tries to prove House is lying.

Hilarity ensues.

Put simply, this is just a reworking of an idea we’ve seen used and reused in the  show a hundred times, but for some reason, with these two, it never really gets old. The sight of a disgruntled and uncomfortable Wilson suspended from the ceiling of House’s apartment in a net can only ever be a reason for celebration, as is the former’s grinning face as viewed through the booby-trapped bathroom door as his friend realizes he’s been had.

Wilson in a net

The House/Wilson dynamic is a big part of what has made the show consistently fun to watch throughout its run, but the rules of ‘House’ dictate that all fun has to end eventually in order to resolve the theme of the week’s story. And, because we’ve enjoyed watching their games (and because we all know in our gut that House’s gun is a real one), it’s a difficult thing to watch House level it at his closest friend in order to cover a lie. House himself would probably justify his actions as ‘necessary to outsmart Wilson at the final turn’, but when he returns the weapon to its hiding place in his cupboard, we glimpse his real motives for keeping it - and his abusive father’s sword - nearby at all times. The year in prison has affected him more than he wants to admit, and now he’s more than a little paranoid himself.

I’m a fan of Thomas L. Moran’s episodes as a rule – ‘Two Stories’ being one of my favorites of season seven - and, as standard House-fare goes, this one didn’t disappoint. It just didn’t sparkle, and with the show now entering the final stretch, I’d really like it if every installment was one worth counting.


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